Oncor Inc. announced Wednesday that it will fund research onidentifying genetic markers that are predictive of lung andbladder cancer.

The Gaithersburg, Md., diagnostics company (NASDAQ:ONCR)has committed undisclosed but "substantial resources for aminimum of three years" to fund the research of DavidSidransky at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.In return, Oncor can commercialize any diagnostics resultingfrom the research by exercising its option on an exclusive,worldwide, royalty-bearing license.

"Cancer is now clearly a molecular disease," Stephen Turner,Oncor's chief executive officer, told BioWorld. For instance,researchers have already identified the genetic changes shownto occur in the progression of colon cancer.

There is a tremendous body of literature that shows that theearly events in colon cancer are specific deletions inchromosomes 5 and 11, Turner said. A later predictive event inthis disease is a mutation in the p53 tumor suppresser gene.Turner said Sidransky intends to use the same model fordetecting lung and bladder cancer in their early stages.

"Lung cancer is the number one cancer today," Turner toldBioWorld, "and there is no genetic-based testing available forit." But if Sidransky's research pans out, it should be possible todetect early genetic changes in individual pre-cancerous lungcells via in situ hybridization with Oncor's fluorescently-labeledDNA probes.

"There are already a number of indications as to where theseearly deletions are (for lung cancer)," Turner said. "Sidranskywill try to specifically identify these deletions and demonstratetheir utility as markers of cancer cells."

Oncor markets more than 200 DNA probe-based diagnostics foranalyzing cancer and genetic diseases, Turner said. Two ofthese have received FDA approval for marketing as test kits fordiagnosing leukemia and lymphoma.

Oncor's product sales for the first six months of 1992 totaled$2.5 million. The company has $31 million in cash and 14million fully diluted shares.

Oncor's stock was up 13 cents to $5.75 on Wednesday.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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